TV and Ra­dio

Red Rock’s dis­parate en­er­gies are a joy to watch; Baby Hater looks to goad tem­pers, but doesn’t want to get in too deep; and How Ire­land Eats is a bril­liant doc­u­ment of what we eat

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - PATRICK FREYNE - PETER CRAW­LEY

Screen and sound reviews

The gar­daí of Red Rock (TV3, Mon­day, 9pm), a brood­ing sea­side town near Dublin, have had their fair share of mys­ter­ies, from mur­ders and miss­ing per­sons to cor­rup­tion and drug crime. But their big­gest cliffhanger of all in­volves the fate of the se­ries. Post­poned abruptly last Au­gust, with 23 episodes al­most ready to go, it now re­turns af­ter its rude in­ter­rup­tion with lit­tle clar­ity over its fu­ture.

Hopes for its long-term sur­vival were dealt a blow last year when the Player Wills cig­a­rette fac­tory, where it is filmed, was sold for re­de­vel­op­ment, and soon re­ports be­gan to cir­cu­late that even its props were be­ing sold off. (That seems far-fetched. Who in this coun­try would be in­ter­ested in fake breathal­yser tests?)

Such am­bi­gu­ity makes Red Rock’s cen­tral mys­tery all the more poignant, be­cause it’s al­ways been hard to say where the show be­longs. It’s al­most too sub­stan­tial, pacy and con­sid­ered to count as a soap opera, too tor­tu­ous and hot-tem­pered for straight drama, and far too witty for its own good. Ex­pertly made and very well writ­ten, Red Rock doesn’t have dif­fi­culty in con­tain­ing those dis­parate en­er­gies, though, and that makes its lat­est episode a plea­sure to watch.

Take the mo­ment Johno (Paul Hickey), a garda sergeant, finds a small packet of co­caine on his out­wardly re­spectable squeeze, Pa­tri­cia Hen­nessy (Cathy Bel­ton). “Some­one must have put it in my bag,” she shrugs, none too con­vinc­ingly. “At a drugs aware­ness ball?” he dead­pans.

There is a proper pro­ce­dure for ev­ery­thing in Red Rock, and though no­body fol­lows it, the show re­spects you enough to ad­mit it.

The dis­cov­ery of a miss­ing woman, a pros­ti­tute found dead in the woods, spins her tear­away teenage daugh­ter, Aoife (Lorna Meade), into im­me­di­ate jeop­ardy. That Paudge Bren­nan (Pa­trick Ryan), a com­pro­mised cop and des­per­ate land­lord who has dab­bled in ar­son, is the garda who tries to find her al­ter­na­tive shel­ter is one of the ironies of the show; he doesn’t have a good track record with ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Still, the kid needs a place to stay and he needs re­demp­tion. So when Paudge and Aoife shyly meet eyes af­ter an un­help­ful con­sul­ta­tion with so­cial ser­vices, it seems there is no sit­u­a­tion so dire that

Red Rock can’t find a flash of fun.

That may be the guid­ing logic to the se­ries, whose char­ac­ters – rarely wholly bad, never wholly good – are al­ways caught up in moral dilem­mas, and may go ei­ther way.

It would be a shame to wind such a se­ries down. These waves of calamity and re­ver­sal could roll on for­ever.


The premise of Joanne McNally’s con­ver­sa­tional doc­u­men­tary Baby Hater (TV3, Wed­nes­day, 9pm) is that she doesn’t want kids, feels 80 per cent cer­tain about it, but is still in­clined to brood on the sub­ject. “Like, I killed a cac­tus,” she says to the cam­era, with cus­tom­ary with­er­ing wit and eyes that flash wide. “That takes work.”

Still, the de­ci­sion to have, or not to have, chil­dren is an emo­tive sub­ject and one that ev­ery stranger on the in­ter­net seems to have an opin­ion about. Asked to


‘‘ For a show pre­oc­cu­pied with con­cep­tion and choice, the sub­ject of abor­tion is never raised, as though Joanne McNally, left, doesn’t want to take on that re­spon­si­bil­ity ei­ther

about her in­dif­fer­ence to pos­ter­ity for an on­line pub­li­ca­tion, McNally wor­ries first about be­ing trolled.

Scrolling later through her ar­ti­cle’s stack of tut-tut­ting com­ments, as though drawn to their flame, she seems less in­dif­fer­ent to moth­er­hood than hun­gry for ma­te­rial.

“Hon­estly, I could lis­ten to him all day be­cause he’s very en­ter­tain­ing,” she says at the end of a Skype con­ver­sa­tion with a sim­i­larly per­for­ma­tive provo­ca­teur. The ti­tle Baby

Hater is sim­i­larly de­signed to goad tem­pers, but the show re­ally doesn’t want to get in too deep. One of the peo­ple McNally speaks to is the comedian Tara Flynn, who has been a vo­cal and taboo-shat­ter­ing sup­porter of Re­peal the Eighth. But for a show pre­oc­cu­pied with con­cep­tion and choice, the sub­ject of abor­tion is never raised, as though McNally doesn’t want to take on that re­spon­si­bil­ity ei­ther.

In­stead, she can­vasses the world for opin­ion, hear­ing from strangers and friends, none more en­dear­ingly than her adop­tive mother.

“It’s quite a hard route to take,” her mother ad­vises. “You’re never your own per­son again.”

It can be hard to tell whether McNally begins to vac­il­late for our ben­e­fit (“Sud­denly flash cars and de­signer hand­bags seem kind of empty”) or if she is gen­uinely buf­feted by com­pet­ing sen­ti­ments.

The voice that most concerns her, though, be­longs to an Amer­i­can woman, Vic­to­ria El­der, who re­grets hav­ing her child. “She’s look­ing up at me with my blue eyes,” El­der re­calls of her in­fant daugh­ter, with an em­pha­sis that im­plies she has been robbed, “and I’m think­ing: I’ve made a hor­ri­ble mis­take.”

Moved by the im­pli­ca­tions of a fer­til­ity check, Joanne later says, with ap­par­ent sin­cer­ity, “I think it would suit me. I think I would make a good mum.” Thirty sec­onds later she says the pre­cise op­po­site, capri­cious to the end. It’s as though her thoughts on the mat­ter have turned into its own rol­lick­ing com­ment thread. Faced with such a ca­coph­ony of opin­ions, this swirl of hu­man­ity, you can un­der­stand McNally’s dilemma. Who would want to add to it?

We are what we eat

Ge­orge Or­well once mar­velled that so lit­tle se­ri­ous at­ten­tion is paid to food. “A hu­man be­ing is pri­mar­ily a bag for putting food into,” he wrote. “A man dies and is buried, and all his words and ac­tions are for­got­ten, but the food he has eaten lives af­ter him in the sound or rot­ten bones of his chil­dren.”

That’s one glo­ri­ous elab­o­ra­tion on the maxim “You are what you eat”. An­other now ar­rives in the shape of One Day: How Ire­land

Eats (RTÉ One, Mon­day, 9.35pm). Framed as a day in the life of Ire­land’s food sup­ply, it begins be­fore dawn, skip­ping briskly be­tween the in­som­niac glare of a 24-hour ser­vice sta­tion, the un­nat­u­rally early ris­ers of Dublin’s Vic­to­rian Fruit and Veg­etable mar­ket and a slum­ber­ing Louth potato farm, still shrouded in mist.

The fo­cus is de­cep­tively sim­ple, but the doc­u­men­tary’s tech­nique is cu­ri­ously god­like; ac­cess­ing all ar­eas, laden with statis­tics, it sees all and knows all.

In a sim­i­lar and sat­is­fy­ing way, the hand that shapes it is in­vis­i­ble.

Peo­ple speak as though un­prompted, too oc­cu­pied with ur­gent tasks to be­come self­con­scious, as­sisted by Maeve O’Ma­hony’s serene voiceover.

“She’s with us all the time,” an em­ployee of a gar­gan­tuan su­per­mar­ket ware­house says of an­other voice, the arm-mounted com­puter po­litely is­su­ing or­ders. “You hear her in your sleep.”

An­other vivid char­ac­ter is Ciaran But­ler, an en­er­getic trader at the Dublin Vic­to­rian mar­ket. The show wisely checks back with him through­out the day, for the warm irony of his sched­ule (“We never stop for lunch”), to the sin­gu­lar apt­ness of his metaphors. “John, I’m in a bit of a pickle,” he says. Well, he should know.

Direc­tor and pro­ducer Brian Hayes makes sub­tle, res­o­nant jux­ta­po­si­tions with his shots – as gor­geously com­posed as an aerial study of a jit­tery potato har­vester – and his scenes.

So you float from the diesel fumes be­neath 2,500 army meals (to­day serv­ing chicken tikka) to a Dún Laoghaire food bank: “The fact that peo­ple are still suf­fer­ing from hunger in Ire­land,” com­ments one vol­un­teer. “It’s a ter­ri­ble state to be in.”

You may think about that scene again when you meet a chef pre­par­ing lob­ster, steak and caviar for a pri­vate jet car­ry­ing just six pas­sen­gers, not be­cause the pro­gramme forces any in­ter­pre­ta­tion, but be­cause it is so gen­er­ous with de­tail.

That’s why the facts, as un­canny as they are to con­sider – we spend ¤20 mil­lion a day on snacks, serve three mil­lion por­tions of chicken, drink 15 mil­lion cups of tea – are ac­tu­ally less re­veal­ing than the tapestry.

Here is a real and il­lu­mi­nat­ing por­trait of a na­tion, shared, like so many things, over food; an art­fully com­posed and bril­liant doc­u­ment of what you eat, what you are.

There is no sit­u­a­tion so dire that Red Rock, above, can’t find a flash of fun The premise of Joanne McNally’s con­ver­sa­tional doc­u­men­tary Baby Hater, be­low left, is that she doesn’t want kids, feels 80 per cent cer­tain about it, but is still in­clined to brood on the sub­ject Top right, One Day: How Ire­land Eats is an art­fully com­posed and bril­liant doc­u­ment of what you eat, what you are

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